COLUMBIA — With the clock winding down to its final seconds and the Missouri men's basketball team down by three points, something went wrong.
Tigers freshman Michael Dixon dribbled the ball up court with a frantic look on his face trying to find someone to get open for a 3-point shot. Rather than passing the ball to shooting specialists Kim English or Marcus Denmon, the ball found the unlikely hands of senior J.T. Tiller. As the ball bounced off the front of the rim and the buzzer sounded, the Tigers stood on the court with towels over their heads and jerseys untucked staring at the scoreboard that read Texas A&M 77, Missouri 74.
“It was designed for Kimmie and then for Mike, but they covered those guys. He took a good shot,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. “But you’ve got to go back. To me, that wasn’t the difference in the game.”
For the first time in 32 games the Tigers lost at Mizzou Arena on Wednesday night. Even as Missouri fans began filing out of the gym with the Tigers trailing, the players never gave up. During timeouts, Michael Dixon was screaming at the starters to keep them motivated. He even pumped up the remaining crowd so much that the stands started shaking.
“We haven’t lost here in a long time, so it’s a pretty new feeling to most of the guys on the team,” Tiller said.
However, Missouri was overpowered by the bigger Aggies. The Tigers had a chance to put the game away with a nine-point lead halfway through the second half, but instead went on a 10-minute stretch without making a field goal. Missouri allowed Texas A&M to get comfortable, even to the point that the Aggies players were smiling, something rarely seen at Mizzou Arena.
“I just didn’t have the right people at the right time in the game when we had the opportunity to put a little distance,” Anderson said.
The Aggies, who struggled with Missouri’s press and speed the majority of the game and gave up 21 turnovers, started using its strength to take over. Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon used a bigger lineup to begin bullying the Tigers and Texas A&M scored 19 points off rebounds.
“We played a bigger lineup. They scramble, they trap, they double, they do a bunch of different things,” Turgeon said. “When you’re scrambling around and switching screens it opens up the rebounding.”
The Tigers were led by the energy of Tiller who scored 12 points and helped force key turnovers earlier in the game. Missouri began the first half allowing Texas A&M to go on a seven-point run, but after a motivational talk by Anderson the team started playing better. It got nine steals and seemed to have control of the game, taking more layups and even taking a one-point lead into halftime.
However, Anderson said his team stopped doing what had made them successful. It began hurrying shots and stopped rebounding.
“We just got away from what got us the lead,” Anderson said. “We took some hurried up shots that got us out of rhythm.”